Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, met in college and embarked on ‘find yourself mission’ by yachting along Americas coasts for eight months (as you do). Bonding well as shipmates (well, they are married), or more likely; pushed to the brink of boredom they formed a band. The result was Tennis. The brain child or twisted one-off man mental of two philosophy graduates in honeymoon mode, Tennis, offer the world a concept album based upon their adventures on the high seas in Cape Dory.
Cape Dory opens promisingly with ‘Take Me Somewhere’, a catchy-kitschy new wave ’50s inspired track, full of Ronnettes meets Lauper sounds that near induce some feverish hand-jiving, clearly capturing the excitement and longing for a getaway. Much hyped track ‘Marathon’ doesn’t disappoint, upbeat and filled with dance-hall feel good jubilance and infectious shoulder shimmying finger-snaps that echo across a dreamy beach haze pop soundscape.
Although Moore’s vocal is crystal clear and silky smooth and doubtlessly captivating on each track, ‘Marathon’ and ‘South Carolina’ in particular; four tracks in to Cape Dory the listener may experience uncomfortable feelings of déjà-vu. It becomes difficult to distinguish one track from another (much like days spent at sea, I’d imagine). Practically identical “oohing” female vocals, same pace, meandering maritime lyrics are the embodiment of ‘Marathon’, ‘South Carolina’, ‘Bimini Bay’, ‘Baltimore’, and title track ‘Cape Dory’. Every so often Riley drops hints of Vampire Weekend-esque guitar riffs, ‘Long Boat Pass’, but mostly it’s simple drum lines, simple jangly guitars, more lyrics about sailing; nice but in this case not very aurally stimulating perhaps because of the dogged obsession with a nautical theme.
At times it sounds like Tennis are trying too hard to create that lo-fi sound that should come so naturally, markedly, the organ intro and buildup on ‘Pigeon’. Where this lo-fi hi-jack does work well is on the album’s closing track ‘Waterbirds’, which is an oddly scintillating stripped song in comparison to its formulaic predecessors; elements of the beach pop and ’50s swing meld with a sea-shanty guitar melody intro, waltzy drums and rich vocals in delightfully disheveled harmony.
Cape Dory displays Tennis’ potential, instrumentally and vocally it’s strong; it’s simply not an exciting or interesting album to listen to. The lack of differentiation on the majority of its ten tracks makes for lacklustre listening for the most part; it sometimes feels like a case of ‘water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink’. And yet the few redeeming tracks will make the listener want force theirself to like the entire album. Surf it or Turf it? The jury’s all at sea for this one.